Animal Profile: Vaquita

Hello all, apologies for not posting for the last few weeks, I have been abroad doing work experience! A summary of this fabulous experience will show up here soon. I will also be fairly busy in the upcoming weeks but I will endeavour to post every week. Anyway, to keep you interested, here is an animal profile on the vaquita, the world’s most rare marine mammal.

Photo credit: Thomas Jefferson

Common name: Vaquita porpoise

Scientific name: Phocoena sinus

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cetartiodactyla

Conservation status: critically endangered

Population: 30

Habitat: marine, only in the Northern Gulf of California

Size: up to 5 ft in length and up to 120 lbs in weight.

Diet: ocean fish, for example the gulf croaker. They have also been known to eat squid.

Lifespan: approximately 20 years. Sexual maturity is believed to occur at 3-6 years.

Appearance: is mainly grey, with large, dark circles around its eyes. It also has dark patches on its lips that stretch to its dorsal fin, forming what looks like a smile.

Breeding: the mating season is from April to May and they have a 10-11 month gestation period, resulting in just one calf. A female vaquita will have a calf every two or so years.

Threats: fishing gear and commercial shrimp trawlers.

Other Interesting Facts:

  1. only discovered in 1958.
  2. to help increase the vaquita population, the Mexican government has recently announced a permanent ban on gill nets.
  3. the vaquita is the world’s most rare marine mammal.
  4. the vaquita is also the smallest porpoise in the world.
  5. seen either alone or in small groups of two or three.
  6. they use sonar to communicate with each other and also to navigate the waters of the gulf.

Sources:

https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/vaquita

http://www.defenders.org/vaquita/basic-facts

http://uk.whales.org/issues/vaquita

http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/17028/0

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